In my own humble opinion, I feel like I’ve been a pretty rational and reasonable person throughout the entire mess that we can now officially say is Will Muschamp’s tenure at Florida. I’ve stated facts and numbers to back up my opinions, radical as they may have been at the beginning (I first saw the warning signs after the Miami game last year), from the get go. And most of all, I was patient with those who opposed me about my disdain for Muschamp leading this team.
I’m done with that, all of it, because here we are well over a year later and nothing has changed. So now it’s time to get binary. We are presently faced with a scenario where one of two things are about to happen: Florida will have a new head coach next year, or Jeremy Foley will keep Muschamp around in an unprecedented display of arrogance at the expense of his own program.
Now, this isn’t meant to be an attack on Foley, because I imagine that there’s a fairly strong likelihood that the reality will match Gator Nation’s wish and Foley will hire a new head football coach for the 2015 season. Whether he wants to drop the axe tomorrow, after the FSU game, or after a possible bowl game (can you believe we’re even thinking about missing a bowl game in back to back years?) isn’t the biggest deal in the world; this season is lost, recruits know Muschamp isn’t long for this job and what matters now is how Florida prepares for 2015 and beyond. But if, somehow, Foley inconceivably comes to the conclusion that the best way to do this is by bringing Will Muschamp back for a fifth season, it’s because he’s selfish.
There, I said it: if Will Muschamp returns in 2015, it’s because Jeremy Foley is selfish. He’s accomplished an incredible amount at the University of Florida, and he is among the best AD’s in the nation. But at this point, Muschamp is out of chances and out of excuses, and bringing him back anyway would be a move that says, “I’m willing to stick by him through however many years of ineptitude it takes for him to catch and ride another wave of good luck to eleven wins again to prove that I made the right hire.” And I’ll add this- 24 national titles in 22 years sort of gives him a pass to be, which of course does nothing to change that fact.
When he sits back in a rocking chair in the private of his living room, Jeremy Foley has to know at this point in time that Will Muschamp is not the right coach for the Florida Gators moving forward. I mean, he’s just got to know by now. How can he not? What excuse is there to not realize that he messed up (big time) with this hire after what happened on Saturday? He hasn’t ever beaten Georgia; why should I believe he will this year? And even if he does, we’re at the point that that win would be about as helpful as a French fry to a starving man in the desert; are we willing to accept playing the role of spoiler as the norm at Florida?
This game was the final straw. Muschamp has crossed the Rubicon. I really don’t care if Florida wins out, including a bowl game, and beats Georgia and FSU by three possessions, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. Any morsels of success he may have the rest of this season are too little too late. In the unlikely scenario that Florida somehow does win out, it would be another 2012-type anomaly that only masks, and doesn’t answer for, his deficiencies as a CEO of a big time college football program and would not be a true indication that things will get better moving forward- and then stay better. So no, there is literally nothing he can do to save his job.
Looking back, wasn’t the worst hire in the world, even though hindsight is 20/20. Muschamp was supposed to be Foley’s latest home run hire, his Billy Donovan of football that he snatched up young so he could lead the Gators to decades of success. I’ll concede that when you average more than a national championship per year, and you’ve had success going down this road before, you sort of have the right to try something like this. He wasn’t my first choice- or Ryan Moyer’s– but from his perspective, it was worth a shot.
But, anyway, this is a recap article, so: what, exactly went wrong against Missouri? Well, I’m going to sounds like a broken record since I’ve been calling Muschamp teams out for the same damned things over and over again, but here we go.
The Gators self destructed. 6 turnovers is bad, really bad, even by Muschamp’s standards. That ties for the most this team has turned it over in one game, the other being the blunderful performance in the Cocktail Party two years ago. But this time, there wasn’t just one culprit. The whole team got careless. Marcus Murphy returned a kick and a punt for touchdowns, and in both I could count at least three Gator players who broke their lanes and thus gave Murphy a seam. And of course Jeff Driskel was his usual gift giving self- throwing two picks (one really bad one that Missouri linebacker Darvis Ruise took back for a touchdown) and fumbling once… which Markus Golden returned for a touchdown.
The offense was nonexistent. You know, again. The offensive line was abhorrent, missing various assignments and thus allowing constant pressure on both Jeff Driskel and Treon Harris. Three and a half years. Three offensive coordinators. Same paltry result. Another game in which Florida failed to accumulate 300 yards of total offense, or in this case even half that (Missouri finished with all of 119 yards of total offense). No one person to blame- certainly not Roper, as each of Florida’s three highly touted offensive coordinators have failed at Florida- except for Muschamp, as the common denominator.
This was a big game, and the Gators played their worst. Another constant theme under Muschamp. Chances to right the ship and salvage something from a disappointing season against Georgia and FSU in 2011? Check and check. A rivalry game against Georgia with enormous implications in 2012? Check. BCS Sugar Bowl against Louisville? Check. Final game of dying Miami and Auburn rivalries? Check. Pretty much every game in 2013? Check. And then the last two weeks’ games, in which Florida had to win to remain alive for the SEC East? Check, and check. Sigh.
For once, Muschamp actually did the smart thing and let Harris play a lot of the game. I don’t expect him to be the next coming of Tim Tebow, but if somebody’s going to be throwing interceptions and overshooting his receivers by 10 yards, I’d rather it be Harris than Driskel. We all know Driskel has reached his ceiling as a Florida QB, so why not give the freshman the experience and let him learn? Harris’s ceiling as a playmaking QB may be Chris Leak, but you can win a national championship with Chris Leak and good coaching behind him- something Harris doesn’t have.
But it’s too late to be looking for positives under Muschamp. The time for trying to find signs of hope and a future with Will Muschamp has passed. The Gators’ chances at the SEC East may be gone, but we still have a chance to erase three years of frustration in Jacksonville against Georgia, and we still have a chance to wreck Florida State’s season; yet that pales in terms of importance compared to what Foley does next. It’s not too late to make a nice memory or two this year by ruining one or both of our rivals’ championship dreams, but the goal is to have those dreams ourselves, not just spoil it for others. So because Muschamp seems like a nice man, and because I’m sure he did his best, of course it would be nice for him to end his Gator tenure the way Ron Zook did by upsetting the Seminoles.
But whether or not Muschamp can pull a shocker over FSU at the end of the season, he’s already ending his Gator tenure the way Zook did in one respect: he’s a dead man walking.